Cable the Jeremiah

Vince Cable The business secretary relishes his reputation as the "sage of Richmond'

The script's already been written.

The leader will call on his party not to lose its nerve. He'll urge them to finish the job they've begun. A vote billed as "crucial" will end in victory for the leadership and defeat for those party activists who want a change of policy.

That, at least, is how Team Clegg are presenting Monday's debate on the economy at the Liberal Democrat conference.

There's just one problem. The man most people think of when they think about the Lib Dems and the economy is refusing to be part of the plot.

Vince Cable, the business secretary and formerly his party's shadow chancellor, will take no part in the debate.

He won't speak in it. He may not even vote (although we are assured that he does back his leader's position)

Vince Cable believes that this is an unnecessary fight. He thinks that if Nick Clegg really wanted to he could reach a compromise with party activists who are calling for economic policy to be "re-balanced" to "raise employment and growth".

In part this is a row about presentation.

Nick Clegg fears that his party would let the Tories "hoover up all the credit" for economic recovery if they give the appearance of wanting to change economic policy now.

That's why he will declare on Monday that there is "one thing that both George Osborne and Ed Balls want - for us to throw away our economic credibility". He will tell his party conference "Don't do it"

Vince Cable, on the other hand, relishes his reputation as the man who warned about the economic crash - the man mocked here as "the sage of Richmond" and described by the prime minister as "a perpetual Jeremiah" after his recent warnings that things may not be as good as some Tories are suggesting they are.

There is, though, substance to the argument.

The business secretary has long argued that the Treasury is manned by officials obsessed with a hairshirt approach to the economy.

He has fought to persuade his coalition colleagues to spend more on infrastructure and to free local councils to borrow more in order to build more houses.

He fears that another housing bubble could lead to an increase in interest rates choking off recovery.

He thinks policy makers need to be ready for the moment the Bank of England decides to scale back its support for the economy. If monetary policy does less, then fiscal policy - tax and spend - may need to do more.

Before the summer Lib Dem MPs debated their economic policy. Vince made his case and lost.

One source close to the party leadership claimed there was a vote in which Clegg's position got 55 votes and Cable's just two.

No wonder the sage of Richmond doesn't want to play any part in Monday's pre-scripted confrontation between his leader and his party.

Update Monday 10am: I am now told that no vote was held after a debate about economic policy at the Lib Dem parliamentary meeting a few weeks ago. However, sources close to both Vince Cable and Nick Clegg agree that the Business Secretary did urge the party to be prepared to relax fiscal policy if the recovery wasn't sustained. Mr Cable is said to have had the support of just one other Lib Dem MP. Mr Clegg persuaded all the others. So, it was 55 versus 2.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Clegg said a future Labour government would wreck the economy.

    According to VC market caoitalism did a good enough job without Labour`s help.

    His speech was one Ed should have made.It was devastating in its criticism.The attack on unions,the anti immigrant biases,the risks to our EU member4ship.

    But Ed is redeemed by keeping us out of a Middle-Eastern war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Listened to Vince on WATO.

    When he speaks about taxing wealth rather than income I get the uncomfortable impression that he wants to let the high earners off the hook completely & merely give the impression of being tough on them. Another squeeze on the 'middle' coming?

    Wealth can be a nebulous concept for fiscal purposes.

    Earned & unearned income rather less so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    No70 Concerned,
    'disdain for free enterprise' - Vince
    Perhaps he knows a little bit about the 'Efficient Market Hypothesis' and its worldwide effect in 2007/8 - near international economic meltdown- and the complete collapse of the Thatcherite political and economic lunacy that has been so dominant during the last 30-40 years.
    You ought to find time to have a look.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Well he did vote and he did speak.

    One remark made by VC stands out.He said The crisis of 2010 was caused by the collapse of market capitalism.The state rescued it.

    This turns the coalition`s economic cause and effect on its head,and the policies predicated on it.

    In their story it was government spending that caused the crisis,therefore we must cut it!.

    Clegg`s face was a picture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Until/unless the word sustainable is commonly used in its true sense of meaning & not abused to proliferate unsustainability, then all else is just treading water until the next man made crisis afflicts itself upon us all

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    "Wealth taxes have been tried"
    At wrong end of stick
    When wealth becomes concentrated, sequestered, exported to 'safe-havens', beyond use of those who (at least) helped make it, sensible will think of liberation, not as "evil" (JamesStGeorge @68 clinging to letter of 'evil' law as inherited) but as necessary for civilisation (living together, not laying waste our planet). Share not 'tax'

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I certainly support Vince on more infrastructure expenditure including housing.
    This should include replacement nuclear power stations, a third runway at Heathrow, electrification of the Midland Mainline but not HS2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    #68 Interesting, yes, but more so as it sheds light on VC's ability as an economist.

    Wealth taxes have been tried in many other countries and always failed. They generate far less than politicians claim, at a far greater cost and encourage capital to leave. (just ask Sweden). Economically they are a disaster are usually only suggested by the economically illiterate

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    What is Cable doing in the LibDems ?
    It is obvious he would be more comfortable in the Labour party which he reminds us ad nauseam he use to be a member of.
    How someone with his distain for free enterprise can be Business Secretary defies logic.
    He pays lip service to freeing business from legislation when he really only wants to add regulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    People seem to feel betrayed which is strange.
    The truth is that when a party has been out of power for ages it’s always going to be a steep learning curve once they are back in power.
    Coalitions also mean you get far less than you want anyway.The country is in better shape than when they came in. That’s good considering the number of outside factors they have no control over eg the Euro.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Interesting on R4 just now Cable admitted he wants to tax wealth.This is definitive proof he is unprincipled and evil.Everyone knows you can not morally tax ownership of anything. What you do with your money after it has been taxed during it's acquisition is nothing to to with gov. You tax new money by income or transaction. This route Cable supports is utterly morally and principally wrong, evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    "Finish the job"

    The job to impoverish the British people with lower wages expected to pay for rising fuel, electricity, rent, stealth taxes, rising house prices, ect ect ect.

    Whilst enriching the rich and ensuring they are above the law.

    Can we afford to wait till 2015?
    Or do we wait until DC has finished the job and the UK too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    No58 Jim
    'start laying into'
    Have you forgotten that David was the only main party leader who was calling for more government spending in the build up to the last election - overseas aid and the NHS?
    The only thing the 'Witney Plonker' is capable of laying into will be one of Rebekah's 'country suppers' - when she gets out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    57. JonathanB
    He can't be there. He's found a fence that needs sitting on.

    Ha ha! So funny and true it deserves posting twice. Vince and the other LibDems will always sit on whatever side gives them the best chance of a bit of power and attention. Just a bit mind. They don't want the responsibility of actually being important or in charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Better get in fast - these comment opportunities are closing quicker than high street shops lately.

    Sad to see the total demise of the LDs.
    Wed to the Tories, Cable fence sitting, Clegg and some numpty calling for potential discrimination against muslims in the classroom etc.

    Calling all remaining LibDems... move to the Green Party.
    You'd be fracking daft to trust the Blue Lite party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Ability to compromise is one thing, admirable or essential in its place. But, not to know what you are compromising, that is the recipe for LibDemery, no real restraint at all on the Big Beast manipulators of panic. Tactical voting has failed the nation, badly. Time has come to register at least our gestures of support towards reason and shareable morality: vote Green - towards equal partnership?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Are you there Nick? In the hall in Glasgow? Cable is speaking as I write this, there doesn't seem to be much shaking of heads from Clegg and the other top dogs, quite the reverse. Now I don't much care for any senior politician in any party and I certainly don't see the need for drama queenery in the reportage from here or any of these conferences, but at least you blog and don't just tweet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    35. SomethingToSay - "How about IMPORTANT issues like immigration?"

    Oh, its a good thing, the more the better. Look at the rich tapestry of our multicultural society....wonderful diversity...hard working...backbone of the NHS...job 'we' wouldn't to our nation...etc.

    They've got nothing appealing to say on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If you love high electricity bills to pay for useless windmills, yet more immigration and more EU unelected nobodies telling you what to do (whilst taking more and more of your taxes) vote Lib Dem.

    Never in charge or responsible for anything, but always getting paid to sound sincere and morally superior. Clegg is a future EU president beyond doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    "code for spending"
    And making a living?

    Were we to understand the case for real democracy, to agree equal partnership, we would liberate all of the nation's talent to liberate all of the nation's capital, to invest in the future of all of the nation's people, fully employed as able, competing to be our best, all secure in belonging, incomes equal-shares, accounts subject to overflow


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